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Negligence wears a stethoscope

  • Published at 05:09 pm March 31st, 2017

For 50 years, I always held all physicians -- any physician -- in the highest esteem. I always thought the doctors were the ones among the human race who do the most deserving work and they would be the first ones to go to heaven for their service to humanity.

I always believed that a doctor who helps a person get cured from a disease is perhaps the best among humans, has the finest of minds.

What could be better work than to help people recover from ailment, save their lives? Indeed, the profession of curing patients from all kinds of ailments, to my mind, was the best profession on earth.

However, my impression of physicians has changed since I took my mother to Dhaka Medical College Hospital on October 29, 2016; she ultimately passed away on December 18 of the same year. She had a burn injury and we took her to the DMC Burn Unit. The doctors started her treatment.

My mother was given a few high-dose antibiotic injections. Two days after her admission, a doctor came and changed one antibiotic injection; a few days later, another doctor came and changed that injection again.

I did some research on these three injections and found out that they were the same and only difference among them was that these were manufactured by three different pharmaceutical companies.

Now what do I call this? Were they trying various injections on her to see results? Or were they trying to sell products of different companies?

After a month of treatment, she developed pneumonia and almost went into coma. The doctors started blaming us for the pneumonia; they accused us that we, the attendants, didn’t make her sit up properly while feeding her and that’s why she had developed pneumonia.

Suddenly, one day, the burn unit doctors released her and forced us to take her to the medicine department at a time she wasn’t breathing.

She needed urgent medical help but no one came forward. We didn’t find any place in the medicine department but the burn physicians were pushing us out of the unit, even when the patient was in a dire state between life and death. One female doctor even forced me to write a disclaimer in favour of them. Curing diseases is the “noble” profession. That’s the reason why physicians enjoy grand respect in society.

However, we have experienced several deaths in our country due to doctors’ mistakes as well as negligence. One tiny mistake by a doctor can lead to catastrophic problems in a person’s life and for his/her family.

According to a recent survey, an average of 10 persons die every year in the districts outside Dhaka due to physicians’ mistake or negligence. A doctor’s mistake cannot be called an accidental death; rather, it should be tantamount murder.

It’s time we formulated laws regarding these errors, as these errors cost lives

Remember, Mridul Kanti Chakrabarty, actor Manna, and news presenter Rasheda Mohiuddin? They all allegedly passed away due to their physicians’ mistakes or negligence.

If these people had suffered like this, we can easily imagine how the commoners are treated at the hands of doctors.

Medical malpractice law governs the liability of doctors and other treatment providers when they cause harm to a patient by rendering their services in a negligent manner.

In the US, all states have their own laws and procedures to handle these specialised personal injury cases. But in general terms, a doctor will be held liable if his or her conduct fails to meet the “standard of care” provided by other doctors under similar circumstances because, if the doctor acts carelessly, the results can be catastrophic for the patient.

A recent report says that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in America after heart disease and cancer, causing at least 250,000 deaths every year.

In Bangladesh, countless people pass away due to erroneous treatment as well as negligence by the physicians.

However, in our country, there’s no assessment at all as to how many people die of medical error and negligence.

It’s also not possible to know what goes wrong; the relatives of the patients don’t have the necessary knowledge with which they can prove that there was in fact a medical error. But there are indeed too many medical errors in our country that go unaddressed.

The physicians who do this are never brought to a process of investigation as there is no law to do so.

One has to file a criminal case while seeking redress for a medical error.

It’s time we formulated laws regarding these errors, as these errors cost lives. It’s time we had a course named Medical Malpractice at universities.

Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer.